My son is a student of taekwondo, and several nights a week I find myself sitting through his hour-long practices. Last night, the weather was nice enough (read: slightly cooler than the surface of the sun, which is how I view summers in North Carolina) to sit outside. His school is in a strip mall in the ‘burbs where we live and there is a bench a few doors down, next to a pizza joint. I had brought a book to read (The Little Red Book of Selling, by Jeffrey Gitomer, which I highly recommend) and as I sat there, I was able to witness an interesting story unfold: the pizza delivery drivers.
Since it was dinner time, the pizza joint was a hive of activity, with drivers coming and going like worker bees. Two drivers specifically caught my attention, as they were on the same cycle of picking up new orders and zooming off to customers and back. Each time they met in the parking lot, I could hear them comparing tips from the previous run. I could tell that one was consistently pulling a dollar or two more than the other. It’s possible that one was just delivering larger orders, or to wealthier neighborhoods, but I think that is unlikely.
To figure out why one was out-tipping the other, it would help if I described the two drivers.
The first was, to be blunt, the definition of slovenly. He was a man in his late-teens/early twenties. Wrinkled black golf shirt (a uniform shirt), untucked over khaki shorts. Company-issued baseball hat, on backwards. Scraggly beard, which had not been groomed in a while. He didn’t walk as much as shuffled – with little drive as he went from car to restaurant and back.
The other driver was a woman about the same age. She was wearing a company hat, facing front with the logo visible, with a neat ponytail pulled through the back. Clean black company t-shirt tucked into her black jeans, with a belt. She moved with a purpose and a hustled from car to store.
To be fair, she was trim and he was not, but I would not list that as a factor in why she was beating him two-to-one on tips. It really was in their overall presentation and bearing. These two offered several lessons for me.
I’ve never met anyone whose life’s ambition is pizza delivery driver. It is often a stop-gap job, a way to make a couple of extra bucks, or part-time work for students. The gentleman I was watching clearly viewed it as a j-o-b. He was putting in a minimal of effort – in both his appearance, and his lack of caring about the job. I’m sure it was readily visible to his customers and was directly impacting his bottom line. Ironically, his clear disengagement in his job will likely lead him to a string of equally unglamorous jobs.
The lady I was watching I’m sure will be off to better things – if she approaches whatever she ends up doing with the professionalism and care she was showing slinging pizzas. She was engaged in her work, and it was resulting in more money each trip.
For the manager of the shop, he or she is responsible for setting the standards of excellent customer service and holding people accountable to them, including appearance. Pizza delivery is a margin-business, and customers have several options when buying. One way to differentiate is excellent customer service. Having drivers that seem to care about doing a good job will result in repeat business. I’m sure finding competent and engaged drivers is not easy. Giving them the tools to make money (like a uniform service that cleans and presses the uniforms) and the training to be successful will help the business.
If you are not currently in your dream job, I would encourage you to still do your best. You won’t be there long if you stay engaged. You can still find things to learn and can parlay that into a job that suits you. All too often I hear from employers that “kids these days” just go through the motions until quitting time. If that is your competition for the next promotion or job, you can outshine them by combining quality of work and hustle.
For those employers who do complain about “kids these days” they need to realize that it is their responsibility to deliver the culture and leadership that attracts the right people and keeps them. For a great read on this exact subject, I would highly recommend Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a fable about a semi-retired executive that turns around a pizza joint, of all places, making it a great place to work. A leader at any level can up their game by reading it.
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